At this point, most of us have adjusted to working from home. We’re familiar with the ups and downs, the technical glitches (which always seem to happen when you’re making a brilliant point on your Zoom call, right?), the restructured routine, and the challenges of electronic communication.
As a leader or teammate in a remote environment, have you noticed greater difficulty in giving and receiving constructive feedback? Has the decrease of in-person interactions and the increase of screens and instant messaging created more barriers for you? Here are some actionable tips to help you become the best communicator you can be, especially when remote work is your reality.
Timing is Everything
Once you recognize that you need to address an issue with a colleague or employee, just do it! If you’re holding back because you don’t want to rock the boat or quietly fix mistakes without clarifying why to the person who made them, then it’s only going to get more difficult. The longer you wait, the less impactful the conversation will be. It’s like a band-aid; ripping it off quickly and getting it over with feels better than peeling it off slowly.
It is important to take some time to step back, reflect, and analyze a situation or problem, but waiting weeks or months lessens the importance and the other person may not even recall the issue.
Brené Brown, author and research professor at the University of Houston, promotes the phrase, Clear is kind, unclear is unkind when it comes to tough conversations. She writes, “Not getting clear with a colleague about your expectations because it feels too hard, yet holding them accountable or blaming them for not delivering is unkind.” Be kind!
These days, when the majority of our communication is funneled through Slack chats, texts or emails, sometimes the fastest way to clear up issues is to pick up the phone and make a quick call. Since tone and context are missing from non-verbal communication, many times you can more effectively find a solution by simply calling.
Before you provide feedback or suggestions, ask your colleague for permission. This can be as simple as “Can I check something out with you?” or “Can I share some observations I’ve made?” When your colleague has given their consent, they are much more likely to approach the conversation with an open mind. Ask nicely!
Facts Not Feelings
We’re humans not robots, but when it comes to giving feedback, try to focus on the facts of the situation rather than how it made you feel. Show the person how their actions negatively impacted the team or client. Be sure you’re accurately and kindly reporting on the issue and providing clear requests to move forward. Being direct will make a stronger impact and remove the chances of misinterpretation.
Focusing on helpful suggestions and solutions will help minimize the (potentially) negative reaction of the person in need of feedback. Show them you want to resolve the problem and move forward without dwelling on what they did wrong. Onward and upward!
Remember Mary Poppins’ wise advice, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”? The same is true of giving feedback. When you need to address an issue with someone, adding a little sprinkle of positivity makes it easier to swallow.
Negative language puts people on the defense and may cause them to shut down and disregard your feedback. Instead, be encouraging and offer suggestions or alternatives when possible. Feedback should inspire the other person to improve, not make them wallow in where they went wrong.
Your tone will be your strongest support. By calling or video chatting, you can use your tone of voice to convey a willingness to help, instead of miscommunicating something because you decided to send an email. You cannot control the tone your electronic message is received with, but you can control your tone when speaking one-on-one with someone. Smile with your voice!
Keep It Private
No one likes to be called out in front of a group. No matter how sensitive or non-sensitive the issue at hand is, try to keep the issue private. This will give your team member a more secure feeling while processing the information you deliver. It also shows your colleague that you respect them and the conversation you are having. Close the door before you open the conversation!
Keep it factual, mutual, positive, and private for the best results. Still not confident? Contact us today to start a conversation.